Neck Sprain

A neck sprain is stretching or tearing of the ligaments of the neck. Ligaments are strong bands of tissue that cross joints and connect bones to each other. They help stabilize joints, including the neck.

  • Causes

    Ligaments normally stretch as the joints move. A sprain is caused by a force that makes a ligament stretch farther than it should. The force is usually the result of an accident or trauma. Some forces can cause tears in the ligament tissue.

    Cervical Spine (Neck)
    Cervical Spine
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  • Definition

    A neck sprain is stretching or tearing of the ligaments of the neck. Ligaments are strong bands of tissue that cross joints and connect bones to each other. They help stabilize joints, including the neck.

  • Diagnosis

    The doctor will ask about your symptoms, medical history, and how you injured your neck. A physical exam will be done. Your doctor will check the stability of your neck and look for any nerve damage.


    Images of bones and soft tissue may be needed to look for other potential injuries such as dislocated spinal discs or fractures. The doctor may also need to rule out other causes of neck pain such as
    arthritis
    or disc disease. Imaging tests may include:

    • X-rays
    • MRI
    • CT scan

    Neck sprains are graded according to the amount of injury:

    • Grade 1—Some stretching with micro-tearing of ligaments.
    • Grade 2—Partial tearing of ligaments.
    • Grade 3—Complete tearing of ligaments.

  • Prevention

    Neck sprain is often the cause of an accident. To help reduce your chance of a neck sprain:

    • Drive carefully to avoid car accidents.
    • Wear your seat/shoulder belt.
    • Wear proper equipment and use proper technique when playing sports.

  • Risk Factors

    Factors that may increase your chance of getting a neck sprain include:

    • Being in a car accident
    • Assaults with a blow to the head
    • Sporting events that include full contact at high velocity
    • Hard fall
    • Occupations that put you at risk for severe falls or car accidents

  • Symptoms

    Neck sprain may cause:

    • Neck pain that gets worse with movement, especially in the back of the neck
    • Shoulder pain and muscle spasms
    • Tingling sensations or weakness in the arms
    • Headache, especially in the back of the head
    • Difficulty sleeping
    • Fatigue
    • Trouble concentrating
    • Irritability
    • Stiffness and difficulty moving the head in one or more direction

  • Treatment

    Treatment includes: